Saturday, June 25, 2005

Max Pescatori

(First segment originally written on Sunday, June 19, 2005)

Sometimes it's hard for me to sit here and just type. It's hard for me to be at home while the 2k Stud 8 is being played. To admit that I cannot play is even worse.

The hardest thing of all is sitting here while I feel I could be doing something productive for Charlie. I could be bullying the pros at the Rio. I could be spreading the word and getting more people to call. Instead I'm stuck in the house.

I know it's for the best, so I don't need anyone to tell me that I need my rest, too. Glenn is good at doing that every 15 minutes, at least, while I sit ranting and raving. In fact, poor Glenn left for work about 20 minutes before he needed to go, probably to get away from my big mouth. I don't blame him.

Max was one of the first people I honed in on at the Rio, when I returned last Tuesday. I knew he was on the second day of the PLO event, and I wanted to make sure he was still in the hunt. Max is much better at playing tournaments than most people assume. I see his name skipped over time and again during the coverage of big events. It isn't until they get down to the money that anyone stops to write, "Oh, yeah, and Max Pescatori is still in, too!"

Even on CardPlayer, where Max submits columns and is in the top ranked 30 of all of the players in the world, he is barely mentioned in the updates.

I think this is part of his play. He doesn't quite stand out, he doesn't smack you upside of the head a la Phil Hellmuth, until he is stacking all of your chips! He has that John Juanda type quality.

So Max was in the money on Tuesday evening, for his third time since the beginning of the series. Quite a feat, if you consider that if you make day two or day three in these events, that means you are missing events in order to play the subsequent day!

Max was down to the wire, there were two shorthanded tables remaining, and the blinds will eat through a player quickly. Players need to raise the pot, or close to it, once per round in order to stay ahead of the blinds. They rarely like to get involved in big pots. In PLO, it only takes one loss to be eliminated quickly.

I had followed Max's progress online Monday night. He was almost eliminated several times. At one point I was afraid he was going to get blinded out if he didn't make a move. I believe they were at the bubble, the average stack was like 40k, and Max only had 5k. But Max is never going to get "blinded out," he is too intelligent for that, and before I could hit refresh again, he was back up to 30k. The bubble came and went, and Max was still there, while other "brand name" players were shaking their heads and walking away defeated.

On Tuesday, I found Max going strong, but didn't want to take away his concentration, so I gave him a little squeeze and moved to the rail quickly. As soon as he got a second, he came over. Being Max, the first thing he asked about was my health, and how I was coping. I knew he'd been asking about me, via Pauly. Max is always concerned about someone else, and blows things off, like how well he is doing, how he is such a champ, how generous and kind he is to everyone.

People have the wrong impression about Max sometimes. I remember my first impression. I was one of the sheep, forming a bad image of him in my head.

Max was at the Four Queens Classic. I'd busted out earlier in the event and was just slightly watching the final table. The final table included Max, and I believe he'd gotten there as the chip lead.

The irony of this final table was that he was playing my best game, Stud. I am very protective and judgmental when it comes to Stud. Max was leading the field in "my" tournament. One I'd just busted out of. I was 17th, I believe. I was never at Max's table.

Max has a way of downplaying his Stud game. Well, any game, really, but definitely Stud. He says it's his worst game. Well, put it this way, if I played his "worst" game as well as he plays it, I'd have lots of bracelets on my wrist!

I was playing in some side games and/or satellites while Max was at the final table. He seemed like he was always in one argument or another. He wouldn't make a deal, he wouldn't do this, he wouldn't do that. I could sometimes hear him across the room (a room with about 100 tables, and I was on the far side, if that tells you anything).

Lots of people were shaking their heads and acting annoyed with Max. I came to the conclusion that he was a bully and a loudmouth. Bad assumption. It was a premature view that I held until the WPPA debacle, when I found out who Max really is.

Anyone is welcome to go back and read some of the outstanding kindness that Max showed me during the two weeks I spend in Orleans hell. I won't go over it again, because there is nothing I can add to it.

Since that time, I have been friends with Max. I have told him repeatedly that 2005 is going to be "The Year of the Max." So far, he is proving me correct.

As I type this on Saturday, June 25, 2005, almost a week after I started it, only the facts have changed, not my views on any subject.

The facts are that Charlie has now passed away. The facts are that Max once again made the money (this time in O8). The facts are that Barry dedicated his PLO win to Charlie. The facts are that so many good people came together to make Charlie's last week joyful.

My views are still the same. My personal heroes remain in tact, and I've picked up a few new ones, too, as you have noticed in my small post about the people who went above and beyond anything I expected in order to contact Charlie.

I, perhaps, made a mistake in judgment when I walked around on Wednesday at noon, through over 2000 players, trying to find the ones I'd given Charlie's phone number to, and telling them that he'd passed away. In retrospect, I wonder if that was wise. I surely don't want anyone to be so distracted and upset that they throw away a $1500 buy-in. On the other hand, I felt I owed it to them, and Charlie's family, to notify them so that they would cease trying to get in touch with him. Part of me says that I was in shock and made an error. The other part of me says that there was nothing else I could have done. There was no way I would have been as successful in finding all of the players with Charlie's phone number in the same place, at the same time. I suppose it's a coin flip, in a way. I am speaking about it in this post because right after I told Max about Charlie, Max busted out, and I wonder if he was emotionally disturbed during his play.

Max is the most generous, kind human being I've found in poker. He ranks with another dozen or so as the very elite of poker humanity.

When Max busted out of the $2500 LHE event on Saturday, he called Charlie. He then immediately got a copy of the SSII in hardback and went back to the Rio in order to have as many of the authors as he could find who were still in competition. He had them sign it, along with having a poster made of Doyle and himself, signed, and then hightailed it to the post office to send the package overnight to Charlie.

I may be getting some of the fine details screwed up here, but the gist of what he did remains correct.

Not many of the top players feel "giving" enough to call a dying player when they have just busted out of a big event. Not many of them run around in the Vegas sun and traffic for someone they don't know. Not many want to go back into the fray which just busted them out, in order to seek out participants still in competition. Not many want to stand in line at the USPS in order to make sure something is sent overnight, even paying the hefty fee of overnight delivery on a weekend.

But to Max, you know what this was? It was nothing. He sees it as absolutely nothing, the very least he could do. That is Max in a nutshell. He gives and gives, and then says, "It was nothing."

And that is why Max is a hero, the very elite in the poker world, and one of my best friends.

Felicia :)